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The Golden Rock - 2010 HKAFF Week 2 Edition

Skipped a few films and slept through a few as fatigue start to wear in at the 2010 Hong Kong Asian Film Festival:

The Days (China, 1993, Director: Wang Xiaoshuai): Something tells me the accolades and acclaim showered on Wang Xiaoshuai’s low-budget directorial debut was more due to what he was able to do under the circumstance rather than the actual quality of the film. Afraid the case of the Mondays sent me to sleep 10 minutes in, but I’ll say that the state of the married couple in the film was already in trouble when I fell asleep, only for me to wake up to see them disintegrate the rest of the way 40 minutes later. What did I miss?

Sawasdee Bangkok (2009, Thailand, various directors): This festival version showcases four of the nine short films originally made for television to highlight the city of Bangkok:

Wisit Sasanatieng’s short film is a magical realist story about the life of a homeless blind girl who is taken on a tour across Bangkok by an “angel” is well-shot and well-paced, but misses some of the old Sasanatieng visual charm that I enjoyed so much in CITIZEN DOG. A solid start to the set of the films.

Aditya Assarat’s short about a man and his recording of cities is a little too subtle for me. There’s a certain down-to-earth charm with the characters, but don’t remember it amounting to that much.

Kongdej Jaturanrasamee’s short about a walk across late-night Bangkok has an affecting love story, though its outcome was very predictable. It still hit its target in terms of emotions, though the acting is a little weak.

Pen-Ek Ratanaruang’s short about a woman’s miraculous encounter after a night out starts off a little slow, but becomes surprisingly powerful by its conclusion. Not sure if I can say it’s my favorite one (all of them have their solid points), but it’s definitely the one that’s sticking with me even now.

Overall, Sawasdee Bangkok is a very solid set of short films about Bangkok, but I would hesitate to say that it made Bangkok a more attractive place for anyone to go.

Poetry (2010, South Korea, Director: Lee Chang-Dong): This quiet drama about an old woman learning to express herself through poetry in the face of her grandson’s shocking crime and its fallout is now signature Lee Chang-Dong. It is quietly emotional, devastating, and has a brilliant lead performance. It is not a film for everyone, but it is rewarding for anyone looking for an absorbing story. However, it does feel like it was meandering a bit by the middle (which made me like SECRET SUNSHINE more), even if it recovers by its powerful ending. Lee is not just one of the best directors in South Korea, but in Asia.

Rail Truck (Torocco) (2010, Japan, Director: Hirofumi Kawaguchi) - This directorial debut - based on a short story that’s set in Japan - means really well, as it tries to do too much and ended up not achieving much. Runs way too long, and the story didn’t really go much places for it. A film that I appreciate was made, but it’s too bad it ended up not being very good. Mark Lee’s cinematography too warm for its own good, but solid.

Udaan (2010, India, Director: Vikramaditya Motwane) - I’ve only seen three films from the HKAFF New Talent Award Section, but this is definitely choice for the best film of the section. A coming-of-age story that is entertaining, emotionally intense, and very endearing, this directorial debut work within with the father-from-hell cliche box, but ends up creating something very likable out of it. An excellent film that proves Indian movies don’t need silly musical sequences to set itself apart from the rest of the world. It just needs directors as good as Motwane.

In the next few days, the final entry of HKAFF, and a wrap-up.

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